T: Machine that fell on Red Line passenger was last used in 2013

The MBTA has released more details about an incident that left one Red Line rider with minor injuries after a utility box fell from a column at the Harvard Square station. The transit agency said Monday’s incident was caused by “corrosion on the support straps that secured the box to the column.”

The T also said the box was part of a 2011 pilot program led by MIT and funded by the federal Department of Homeland Security. It was intended to house censors capable of detecting and identifying biological agents. Fourteen boxes were installed at the Harvard, Porter and Davis T stations, and they have “served no purpose since the pilot program ended in 2013,” the T said through a spokesperson.

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MBTA general manager Phil Eng has directed staff to begin removing the remaining boxes from all three stations.

Just two months ago at Harvard station, a waterlogged ceiling tile fell and narrowly missed a woman on the same platform. The incidents have resurfaced questions about the safety of the T’s infrastructure.

“I think the natural reaction is outrage,” said MBTA Advisory Board Executive Director Brian Kane, on WBUR’s Radio Boston. “We keep seeing these infrastructure failures over and over and over again. And I think people really are starting to question confidence in the system now.”

Red Line riders at Harvard Square told WBUR the recent headlines have made them feel “nervous” for their safety.

Dan Patnaude, who said he has taken the Red Line for 20 years, said he now watches where he stands because “you never know” when something might come crashing down from overhead.

Prior the problems at Harvard station, riders were alarmed by a fire on an Orange Line train, and an equipment issue that forced passengers to be escorted out on foot through a Green Line subway tunnel. A faulty safety feature on a Red Line train car has been blamed for causing a rider's death last April.

Cambridge resident Jordan Cooper said she is taking the bus more often to get to and from her job in Boston.

“I mean with things falling and trains derailing and fires, it does make me scared, to be honest,” she said.

WBUR's transportation reporter Andrea Perdomo-Hernandez, along with Stacy Thompson of Livable Streets and Brian Kane of the MBTA Advisory Board, joined Radio Boston to discuss multiple problems at the T, from the incidents at Harvard station to partial shutdowns of multiple subway lines and the T's looming financial problems. You can hear the full segment by clicking the play button at the top of this post.

This article was originally published on May 02, 2023.

This segment aired on May 2, 2023.